The claimant was an electrician sent by his employer to repair overhead heaters in a church.

As they were a considerable height above floor level and he did not have a ladder long enough to reach them, he borrowed a ladder from the church and a church steward offered to foot it. He asked the steward to turn off the electricity and he went outside to do so. On his return the steward heard a crash and found the claimant on the floor with the ladder on the floor beside him.

He argued the defendant had committed various breaches of the Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996 and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 including a failure to provide suitable equipment – a suitable ladder – carry out a preliminary risk assessment, give adequate training and ensure that someone would assist in footing the ladder or securing it in position while it was in use.

HELD: The immediate cause of the accident was S's lack of care for his own safety. He had climbed back up the ladder while W was outside briefly, and the ladder had slipped because there was no one to foot it.

The ladder used was a metal extendable one belonging to the church, which was perfectly suitable and safe, and the fact that D had not provided it was immaterial. There was nothing inherently unsafe about the way the ladder had been placed. S was an experienced electrician who recognised the relevant safety requirements.

A risk assessment by the employer would not have made any difference to the outcome. There was no strict civil liability upon an employer to carry out a risk assessment in the case of every job that an employee might undertake. It was also clear that the employer would have provided someone to assist the claimant if he had requested it by telephone. Furthermore, D's health and safety information was adequate both in its general terms and specifically in respect of the use of ladders. The evidence showed that the entire fault lay with S.

The employee was entirely at fault in climbing the ladder while no one was present to foot it or secure it in position.

George Edward Sharp -v- Elnaugh & Sons Ltd (2006) CC (Colchester) 4 December 2006